Sunday, November 12, 2023

"Strict Consistency with the Past"

Whilst casually flipping through my old copy of the 1929 New Catholic Dictionary, I looked up its entry for "Pope" and found an interesting little nugget. After a rather boiler-plate explanation of papal authority (universal, immediate, perpertual, etc.), it addresses the question of whether pontifical power is to be understood in an absolutist manner. After discussing the pope's practical dependence on the curia for his governance, the article answers the question in the negative: 

"In no way, therefore, is the pope's exercise of power absolutist or arbitrary. Besides the check of his own conscience, he is guided by the spirit, practice, and tradition of the Church, its ancient statutes, customs, and precedents, its council; in a word, by strict consistency with its past and by a pious regard for its pastors and the faithful." (1)

While the pope has no earthly superior, he is clearly not meant to operate indepdent of any checks whatsoever, and the New Catholic Dictionary rightly stresses the pope's accountability to Sacred Tradition, to "strict consistency with the past," which functions as as another "check" on his actions, in addition to the pontiff's own conscience.

This is how all absolute monarchies function. Historically, even rulers who are legally absolute must exercise their power judiciously, with deference to legal precdent, the opinons of learned men, and the customs of their people. The same holds true for the pope who, though he has no earthly superior, must nevertheless hold himself accountable to the "spirit, practice, and tradition of the Church"— at least if he is not to be perceived as a tyrant.

Funny how this was just common knowledge in 1929.


(1) "Pope," in The New Catholic Dictionary ed. Condé B. Pallen & John J. Wynne (London: The Universal Knowledge Foundation, 1929), p. 774. Imprimatur Patrick Cardinal Hayes, Archbishop of New York


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Brother. Great get.

Owing to the cowardice of the Episcopacy, Francis gets to wreck everything.

He Is obviously a tyrannical heretic and he must be put on trial for the delict of Heresy and declared not possessing the Papal office if he does not repent.

One reason the Episcopacy fears him is they suspect he would not leave willingly but have to literally be removed by force.

Fine with me.. drag him out by his hoofed heels.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

I got a copy of The New Catholic Dictionary and it was interesting to read the entry of St Vincent of Lerins and the cautions about his Commonitorium and then to read the entry on Newman with no mention of his Development of Doctrine.

It's a great book. TY for mentioning it.

I found a copy being sold by a guy in London.

Excellent resource..Did you read The preface - especially the paragraph beginning "The chief merits of a dictionary are precision, accuracy, simplicity and brevity. Fortunately, precision and accuracy are characteristic of Catholic theology...."

Yes, this was written LONG before Vatican Two :)